I DIDN’T dive. Nor did the Arsenal legend foul me. I just tripped down a step inside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium... and looked a proper Charlie.

Or looked up at a proper Charlie, to be precise.

Charlie George. The Charlie George.

It is an odd thing when you come face to face with a hero of your youth. Or face to navel in my case, having all but fallen over just as I was obsequiously telling him what a privilege it was to stand before him.

I was born within 100 kicks of Highbury (if you’re a shire horse-sized donkey fed on spinach and steroids) and hoofed after the team devotedly through the lean 1960s when Arsenal didn’t win a bean in Britain.

Then came the 1970-71 season and we did the double. Thanks to Charlie.

His wonder goal from 20 yards against Liverpool won us the FA Cup deep in extra time.

And there I was last week on a tour of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, being shown the fabulous facilities by, pinch-me someone (not that hard, mum), the Arsenal legend and onetime New Milton resident Charlie George.

I’ve met some famous people before. And felt a right plonker before a few of them, too. Once, as an 18-year-old, I was in a pub with a group including the beautiful Koo Stark, trying to look cool. And the barman refused to serve me because he said I looked seven.

Another time I shoved open a stiff theatre door and found Malcolm McDowell, star of the cult movie If, panting on the other side. We said little. He took my breath away. And I may have done the same to him because he looked a bit winded.

But Charlie was different. You forge your heroes when you’re young, don’t you?

You exalt them because they’re special but want them to be down-to-earth.

And Charlie was. He even listened to my considered views on football. A refreshing change from the derisory snorts of friends and colleagues.

And he shared his own opinions, freely. Which player did he think had the greatest footballing brain? Dennis Bergkamp. Who was the best he’d played with? Liam Brady. What was Cloughie like? Groundbreaking. Who was the bravest keeper? Bob (now living in Christchurch) Wilson.

And how come Charlie played a couple of times for AFC Bournemouth when Dave Webb was manager and Jim “Nick Nick” Davidson a director?

“Webbie and Jim just rang me up and asked me if I’d fancy turning out for Bournemouth? So I did.

“The football might not have been up to much... but the fun certainly was.”

Charlie George’s career included a spell at Southampton and, after it ended, he ran the Ashley Hotel at New Milton.

Now he’s a star of the Emirates’ tour. And unaffected by past fame.

To my indignant surprise, two in our tour group didn’t even know who Charlie George was. A third one even asked him what it was like to play with (former Spurs star) Ossie Ardiles?

That one threw us all but, luckily, a plucky lad aged about 10 in an Arsenal shirt (who hissed, as I once did, at the mention of “that mob down the road”) asked him the key question.

What did it feel like scoring that goal that won the FA Cup?

“Absolutely fantastic. Unforgettable. The greatest feeling in the world,” he beamed, showing the same smile he had on May 8 1971.

When he scored that goal that affected so many fans’ lives like mine, he celebrated by skidding on the Wembley turf and lying flat on the ground with arms outstretched.

It was an iconic Arsenal moment.

And I almost matched it as I tumbled down that Emirates step.